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Pneumonia Can Increase Danger to the Heart

Pneumonia is a common lung infection with more than one million people admitted to the hospital for treatment each year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. And, research published in JAMA found that the risk of cardiovascular disease increases for up to a year following a pneumonia infection.

“An acute infection like pneumonia increases the stress on the heart and can lead to a cardiac event like heart failure, heart attack or arrhythmias,” said Weston Harkness, DO, a cardiology fellow at Samaritan Cardiology - Corvallis.

For a healthy person, a case of pneumonia is very unlikely to lead to a cardiac event. The danger, according to Dr. Harkness, is for people with other cardiac risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and tobacco use.

“The inflammatory response in the body during an infection can increase the risk of a cardiovascular event, but there is some evidence that pneumonia specifically can contribute to plaque breaking off the artery walls and causing a clot which can lead to a heart attack,” said Dr. Harkness. 

Pneumonia Prevention

Pneumonia occurs when the lungs become infected. It may follow a cold or the flu. Dr. Harkness recommends a flu vaccine to help prevent pneumonia. For some people, a pneumonia vaccine may also be appropriate.

If you’ve had lingering cold or flu symptoms for more than two weeks that don’t seem to be getting better, visit the doctor to make sure everything is okay. If you know you have cardiovascular risk factors, talk to your doctor about whether you should take aspirin following a respiratory infection to lower your risk of a clot.

Learn when getting a pneumonia vaccine makes sense and how to differentiate between pneumonia and a cold. 

Find out why Good Samaritan was recognized in Oregon for its care of patients with pneumonia.

Read more about pneumonia and heart disease.